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Hey There, I just finished a mix session with a client. He's a creative guy, very into sound, but I found myself with a collaboration issue I really don't have an answer to. That is, I would hear stuff he just wouldn't. Maybe an eencie bit excess bass here, or the timing being slightly off on something. Milliseconds. It all makes a difference that everyone feels but only someone trained in audio, or with a very particular ear, would notice. And that's stuff we have to approach in the mix, right? I mean, that's why we get hired - because we notice stuff most people don't. But when you're mixing, and the client's right there, and every minute is worth x dollars to them, and you're describing what you're doing but the client genuinely doesn't hear a difference, what do we do?

Mind you, I'm not talking here about a client who disagrees with the mixer. It's my firm position that, in those situations, the client is always right, because it's their project and they just know it better than you do. What I'm talking about is when the work is so subtle / nitty-gritty, or not even so subtle and nitty-gritty, but just subtle enough that the client can't hear it, or doesn't know how to hear it.

Do you take pains to make sure the client can hear the difference? Do you just move on and ignore it? Obviously, I really don't want to let the client get bored, because if they're bored they're less on their toes creatively. So spending huge amounts of time "fixing" something they don't identify as a "problem" is unappealing. But leaving it unfixed, or unoptimized, or just un-awesome isn't appealing either.

The nightmare situation at the extreme end of this challenge, I think, is when a client starts to suspect you're not really changing anything. Fortunately that hasn't happened to me, but I've heard stories.

So what do you do?

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6 Answers 6

I try to focus on what they care about first, especially if they're sitting right next to me or over my shoulder. As you said, the last thing you want to do is frustrate your client by messing with something they can't really hear or don't care about.

If you sense their impatience, drop a note or marker to yourself and fix it when they go to the bathroom, are on a phone call, or before your final print.

In the end, client trumps craft. Do your best to squeeze in all that extra craft and care that you can, but remember that in a lot of situations, it doesn't necessarily matter how GOOD you are that keeps the job for you - it's the relationship with your producer, director, editor, etc.

Speed will work to your advantage too - if you can solve the problem quickly and unobtrusively, even better!

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I think you need to clarify whether its a technical issue (ie a foley footstep that is 2F late) or a creative one. If they have signed off on the mix you could be in very dodgy territory to make creative changes without their permission and approval. Inevitably when the project plays in a theatre with crap sound & they call & ask 'did you change anything from when I signed off on it?' You need to be able to answer honestly...

In a complex mix technical faults are picked up right through until the print master is finished, so saying it should have been fixed in the premix does not reflect reality. Predubs get conformed, VFX get updated, picture conforms sometimes do not match the offline etc etc... Technical faults must be addressed, your defence in that case is that the mix may be rejected by a QC check if you do not address them....

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I would just get your head down and get on with it. You don't need to stop the client from becoming bored, he or she is an adult. Work within your time budget and say to the client that if they want to jump in at any time please feel free. Decide yourself if a change is reasonable within the budget, normally if you want absolute perfection you have to do it in your own time, unpaid. The main thing is make it as perfect as you can within the budget.

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Haha, well it's one thing to "apply a 0dB attenuation across all faders" when the client asks for something you strongly think is unnecessary, but i wouldn't worry too much about the client not noticing the differences resulting from the changes you want to make.

I don't know your exact workflow, but i like to take care of my changes before the client comes in. If we're really pressed for time, though, i mention that i have some small mixing tweaks i want to make later on, and briefly explain them, before moving on with the client's changes. In my experience, they're generally fine with it, and it shows that you're willing to go the extra mile.

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I think the answer here depends on context.

Is this a film mix? short? tv show? industrial? If its any of those things you probably didn't finish your premix before the client arrived, as those things should be addressed during the premix step.

Is this a radio spot? tv or radio spot? something where the client was hanging around for the entire process? In that case you should just do as others have said and address client needs first, with a comment that you'll fix the other stuff in another pass later on. Mark the things you intend to change and move on.

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Hi, first point: i'm finishing a 12 hour editing session but these situation it's so familiar to me that i must leave a comment before go home. Well, obviously your client doesn't know what he is doing in the studio, you can't tell him that directly because if you do it, you are destroying any possibility of a peaceful relationship, but it is a crucial part of your job to put his ass and ears in the right place. Time and experience teach me that working in sound its a tricky balance between ears and relations with persons. I can't tell exactly how you can pass this communication problem, but that's what it is. I know that sometimes it's a difficult situation, but maybe a good conversation and a clear definition of workflow can help.

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